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Unbelievable RC

Tamiya Buggy Champ

Tamiya Buggy Champ


  • Model #: 58441
  • Gallery: View
  • Released: 2009
  • Prebuilt: No
  • Category: Buggies
  • Chassis: SRB
  • Scale: 1/10
  • Use: Offroad
  • Style: 2WD buggy
  • Config: RR
  • Driveline: Gearbox
  • Body: ABS
  • Finished body: No
  • Susp. front: Trailing arm
  • Susp. rear: Swingarm

Photo gallery samples

Visit the full Tamiya Buggy Champ gallery for more photos.

JANG's Impressions

In 2009 Tamiya shocked their vintage fan base by re-releasing a true classic, the 1979 Rough Rider, this time called the Buggy Champ. The Rough Rider was Tamiya RC kit #15 and their first in the Special Racing Buggy series that is credited by many for kicking off the entire electric off-road scene. The Buggy Champ is a delightfully faithful reproduction of the original, with the main differences being stronger trailing arms and knuckle mounts, and larger-bore shocks. In addition, the suspension pins now have flat spots to help the set screws grip, the driveshafts are chrome-plated steel in place of brass, and the FRP chassis plates are made with black resin instead of clear.

Compared to a modern RC buggy, the Tamiya Buggy Champ is constructed like it's from another planet. The front dual trailing arm suspension uses small torsion springs and gives no camber gain. The rear single swing-arm suspension uses torsion bars and gives the most dramatic camber gain you'll ever see. This is all in homage to the full-scale vehicle the Rough Rider/Buggy Champ was inspired by, the FUNCO dune buggy (itself a total conversion based on an original Volkswagen Beetle). What's more, these major suspension parts are made of cast steel, as are the transmission halves. The motor is not bolted in, it's clamped. The speed controller, receiver, battery, and steering servo all sit in a large transparent box to help keep dust out, and this entire box rides on two large rubber well nuts bolted to the flexible fiberglass plate chassis.

As was standard in its day, the body is of the ABS "hard shell" type, and is equipped with a few nice details like faux light buckets and a driver bust, plus even a molded dash insert that's unfortunately hardly visible once the whole vehicle is assembled. Completing the look are three-piece wheels with a bit of bead-locking action, though the instructions ask you to glue them as well (which I find unnecessary and don't recommend).

Though it's an ancient relic in its own right, the Tamiya Buggy Champ or old Rough Rider has probably more historical significance than any RC you could buy in the first decade of the 21st century. It's clunky and overweight, but represents the state of the art from a time when RC was about to enter a new and exciting phase in its evolution.

The Build

Please see the full Tamiya Buggy Champ build thread on the forum for photos of the assembly process.

  • In step 1, don't tighten any of the cap-head until you have all of them in and started, in case you have hole alignment issues like I did. Once you start screwing them in, go finger tight all around, then do your final tightening to make sure the transmission halves seat properly.
  • In step 2, it's not obvious in the manual, but you want to insert the BG9 shafts such that the flattened parts face towards the front.
  • Use very, very little grease on the spur gear & pinion. Technically you don't need any, but a tiny bit will help smooth things out slightly. Too much, though, will just fling around and make for a very visible mess, thanks to the see-through gear cover.
  • You may be tempted to try to fill the shocks perfectly, with no air bubble. You will soon realize that this is just not possible. As noted in the build details, the lower cap is not sealed, so air can seep in while oil can seep out. More importantly, though, this shock design has no affordance for compensating for the displacement of the shock shaft. If you do manage to briefly fill it perfectly, and then you try to push the shaft in a little, you'll discover the wonderful world of hydrolock. Oil is very, very difficult to compress (so much so that it's usually considered impossible for all practical discussions), so if you try to displace some of it by pushing the shock shaft in, and everything is sealed, you're not going to get anywhere. Push hard enough and oil will simply squirt out the bottom of the shock. Pull the shaft back out and you will create a vacuum, which then pulls in air. Simply put, these are emulsion shocks. They will always have air in them.